Interview with Leviathan – Restart for making a new history!
Back in 2010, the progressive melodic death metal force Leviathan released their first CD From the Desolate Inside with concentrated amazing 4 songs. They released 2 fabulous full-length albums after that, but it was the end of an era. During the long hibernation, I was doubtful about their existence in the future, but luckily, I was wrong! The band is back with the energetic new full-length Of Origins Unearthed and finally opened their new chapter.
Through the long hiatus, each of you guys had many changes and progresses in your personal lives, right? How have you been and what was the trigger of the reunion?
Tobi: Well our lives really have changed over the four years that Leviathan was inactive. Some of us founded families, we got married and all left university and started with daily jobs, but we are personally all in a good place right now. But we never considered getting back together during that time, until a fan from the USA came over to Germany. We had been writing on Facebook for years, so he asked me, if it would be possible to meet the band. I called everyone up and that meeting was the first time that all of us were in the same room since July 2013. And as soon as we got talking, everything became really easy, all the old memories came up and we quickly decided to get back together and reunite the band.
Such an interesting story and even touching. So, every one of us should feel thankful to the fan from the USA! Since I had an interview with you guys for the last time in 2013, Fabian (on keyboard) and Tom (on bass) left the band. Can I ask you the reason why the guys left the band?
Tobi: The reason for both was mostly that their lives have changed so much over the past years. Fabian is travelling a lot and he now lives further apart from us, so it was unfortunately pretty early on apparent, that he wouldn't be able to put as much time into the band as we needed him to. With Tom it was pretty much the same. We tried to get him back into the reunion for over a year, but he is very busy with his job and just became a father for the first time, so he actually only managed to rehearse with us one time in that whole year. At the end we just had to let him go, in order to get the band on stage again and to move on.
And you decided to go on without an official keyboard player, right?
Tobi: Exactly, we have been playing around with the idea of using a backing track for a long time. Mostly since "Beyond The Gates Of Imagination Pt. 1" did feature so much orchestral arrangements, that we were never able to replicate it properly on stage with only one keyboard. And when we now started the band again, we thought this could be the right time to also give a fresh start to our live performance and try to get even closer to the recorded versions with the orchestra in its full glory. To me that still was the right decision, since especially tracks like "Towards The Storm" or "Beneath A Blackened Sky" really sound so much better now.
What a relief to know that. As far as I know, Tom was responsible for your past album arts as well. How did you manage the great art of Of Origins Unearthed without him?
Tobi: That was really one of our biggest problems, since we have been relying heavily on Tom and his skills when it came to our artwork. But fortunately, when we did our "10 Years Anniversary" shirt in early 2018, we got to know Maurice Mosqua and his company Calvariam Design. Since he had done such an incredible job with the shirt, we decided to just give him a brief outline of what we wanted for the art and just let him come up with his ideas. And what can I say, the result is simply outstanding and we will continue to work with Maurice for our future artworks.
When it comes to the inside of the booklet, I decided to handle that myself. We set up a little studio in our rehearsal space and Jule did take the photos there, and afterwards I did the editing of each page. Through recent albums I have gained some experience with artwork and editing, and I am pretty pleased how my first try worked out :)
The reason that I love the art is the symbolic Leviathan’s character and the current members’ figures tell me like Leviathan (the band) is back as a stronger team with mixture of the typical Leviathan’s style and new elements. Can you tell us about concept of the art?
Tobi: For the artwork we really wanted to pick up the idea of origins or rather roots, that is also present in the title. One day I stumbled upon a great picture of a dragon that is formed out of roots, which lead us to the idea of the Leviathan being constructed out of roots for the cover. It was all planned to give you the feeling, that you are just witnessing the resurrection of the Leviathan from its roots. The idea to include the band in the artwork actually came from Maurice and we just loved it, because it really added another dimension to the whole concept - Emphasizing the unity within the band that we have today. To me it is probably the best artwork, we ever had for one of our albums.
Check entire lyrics of Of Origins Unearthed on Lyrics Library!
Indeed! Well, as you already mentioned about Jule above, could you introduce us your new members: Jule and Hendrik?
Tobi: Basically, I know both of them from their former band Skadika, where I did play guitar briefly in 2013 and 2014. Also, probably everyone by now knows, that I am married to Jule. And when we knew that we had to let Fabian go, we really started looking for another singer, who could perform all the parts that Fabian would sing on stage and also to add more variety to our sound. And since I knew that Jule is not only a great singer, but also knows how to run a band since she has been doing that for 8 years with Skadika, she just was the perfect addition to our line-up - musically and in being able to help me with all the organizational stuff behind the scenes. And Hendrik was always interested in playing in Leviathan, ever since I handed him some of our albums while we were playing together in Skadika. Just one week after I gave him the CDs, he turned up at the next rehearsal of Skadika and started playing the most complicated bass-guitar parts of the Leviathan songs, which really impressed me. And when we needed a replacement for Tom late last year, I immediately called up Hendrik and fortunately he agreed to join right on the spot.
Once you made me unsure about the new album before listening to it because of the announcement for a new clean singer as a permanent member. I mean I was simply worried about rapid changes of your music style. However, I found out my concerns were no necessary at all. She did a good job in the album. For you, Tobi, do you have much respect of her not only as your lifetime partner, but also as a brilliant musician?
Tobi: We were actually all very afraid, that people would assume that with her addition to the band, the sound of our music would change drastically - which was never the plan. But further on I also feared that people would think, that she only got the job because we are married. That's why I am so incredibly proud of the exceptional job she did on "Of Origins Unearthed", because that will silence every critic, who might have thought she wasn't the right one for the job.
Apart from the music, it was really a match made in heaven when I met Jule in 2013. It can sometimes be very difficult to have a girlfriend that doesn't understand how much time and passion goes into making music. But because Jule also was playing in a band, she really gets how much Leviathan and our music mean to me, which really makes life so much easier.
Well, when did you start writing new songs for Of Origins Unearthed?
Tobi: Actually, we never really started writing new material, since all the material you hear on the album was already written between 2007 and 2009. Basically, before we entered the studio to record "From The Desolate Inside" we already had written the material for the album. But we simply didn't have the money to record a full album, so we decided to go with just 4 songs and release an EP first. And when we finally saved up enough to return to the studio, we were already working heavily on the songs that would later become "Beyond The Gates .. Pt. 1". And after years of playing the old tracks on stage and at rehearsals, we simply weren't sure that we could recreate the same magic in the studio. So, we decided to go on with the new material, but we had always planned to revisit these old songs at some point in the future. Now with the reunion of the band, it simply felt like the right time to return to our roots and finally get these tracks on a record.
Okay, now I got clearly why I felt that the new album has a spirit of the early era of the band!
As a fan of Leviathan from the early era, I was near to tears when I started listening to the album with “Back to Zero” for the first time. Such a great idea to feature snippets of these old songs : “The Crescent Moon” from the last album The Aeons Torn - Beyond the Gates of Imagination pt.I.II, “Beneath the Blackened Sky” from the second release Beyond the Gates of Imagination pt.I and “A Symphony of No Tomorrow” from your very first release From the Desolate Inside to rewind Leviathan’s trajectory with some nostalgic effect. Yes, it’s literally about back-to-zero and boost up Leviathan’s restart for a new era. Genius and touching! How did you come up with the idea?
Tobi: That idea really came up while we were recording. We didn't have an intro set and we just started bouncing ideas around. And suddenly we stumbled across the whole "rewinding time" idea, because the songs actually were written before all the other releases. From that starting point we did quickly set up the track with the rewind noises and all the little snippets of the songs. Apart from that we felt like it would also be a very nice little thing for our long-term fans, because they would immediately recognize the tracks and would get, what we were going for. Glad to hear, that it obviously struck a nerve with you, just as we had intended :)
And then, I got goose-bumps with the kickstart of “Beyond the Stars”. I was totally excited when I found out Jonas’s shouts are still killer and both of you guys (Tobi and Jonas) are great guitar players like you were in the past releases. Did you use any new gears for the new album? If so, could you tell us about it?
Tobi: Jonas gear actually still is very much the same as it was on the last record, but for me there have been some changes. In June this year I started a great cooperation with Dutch guitar-manufacturer Serpent King Guitars, who create exceptionally great instruments for a very reasonable price. And I used my new Blackfyre guitar for most of the new record. Apart from that it was also the first time that we worked only with digital amplifiers by Italian company Ignite Amps, which are just awesome and allowed us to record all the guitars in my new home-studio, where we ended up producing the whole album.
“Proclamation of Death” reminded me of my eagerness for your music, made me happy with the feeling my beloved Leviathan is back! This song is one of the oldest in the album?
Tobi: "Proclamation ..." is actually one of the oldest songs on the album, that was written in 2008. It even was in the set at our very first show in 2009 and it is also one of the only songs in our whole history, that I wrote most of the lyrics for. When we revisited the track for "Of Origins Unearthed" we were all actually very surprised how much it has in common with songs like "Servants Of The Nonexistent" or "About Fangs And Feathers", which both were written years later but they all share a very same feeling, with this wall of guitars that just slices through the whole track.
“Keep Going” is one of my favorites in the album and it doesn’t sound like death metal with the positive lyrics and melodies, it’s like a boost of life. And in a point of view, it sounds like a message for yourself. What was on your mind when you wrote the song?
Tobi: It was just that, we really wanted a song that breaks up the whole death metal concept a bit. Normally lyrics in this style of music are dark, which we also love very much. But this time we really wanted to spread a positive and uplifting message to everyone, who might be experiencing a hard time, that will help them to keep their head up and continue to pursue their dreams. And with the fast and very melodic guitars, "Keep Going" just seemed to be the perfect fit for that message.
Agreed! Among the metal storm through the album, “The Eye of the Storm” stands just as the eyes of the storm. Why did you insert the atmospheric beautiful tune?
Tobi: It was really the idea to give the listener a little break in the center of the record after the blistering riffs in the three previous tracks. We had written the tune a long time ago, but never really found the right spot for it on any other record. This time with the very fast tracks on the new album, it felt like the perfect place for a rather atmospheric and relaxing song. Another nice effect is, that it divides "Of Origins Unearthed" into two chapters. The first half of the record is a little faster and more melodic, while the second half is a bit more progressive and overall darker.
Here we go with the outrageous “Lake of Blood”. Tobias Parke’s drumming is still sharp and tight like before, isn’t it? Was it easy to play again in harmony with him especially extreme tunes like the song right after the long break?
Tobi: It wasn't easy at all. After the break we all needed a few weeks to get our own playing up to the level, where it needed to be. And also when we met for the first rehearsal, it really took us a lot of time and work to get everything together. We went in one song at a time and slowly worked our way through our set until we were finally able to perform again at 100 percent. Especially the longer tunes as "Sway Of The Stars" really proved to be a challenge to get just right, but in the end we managed to even get our stage performance to the next level compared to the past.
And, “Sorrow” is the darkest song in the album and I can feel pain in it. How do you describe insight of the song?
Tobi: It is a song about death in general, the feeling of losing someone close to you. I know that Jonas was inspired for the lyrics by the death of his grandfather, which happened just at the time we were working on this tune for the first time 10 years ago. But we never finished the lyrics back in 2008, so when we revisited the tune and completed the words, really all our experiences with death and loss in the past years played into the dark atmosphere of the track.
Sorry to hear about his loss, but the song will live forever...
Well, “Come Forth, Leviathan!” is a wonderful instrument tune using various music style. And I found some funny coincidence in the title. It points not only about the appearance of Leviathan but also about the album four, haha. What did you want to express with the tune?
Tobi: We actually started with a blank page for this song, without any overall idea of what we wanted to express. We just let the music carry us away and we went along with the ideas, as we were jamming in our rehearsal space. In the end we then tried to find the right title for it and it just had this majestic feeling to it, fitting to the rising of the mythological creature that the Leviathan is. We also decided to use the name of the band in a song-title for the very first time, since the diversity of the musical influences really sums up perfectly, what we stand for as a band.
I guess your abundant musical experiences show us the diversity of the wonderful instrumental tune. Can you tell us your favorite point in the track and why?
Tobi: That is a difficult question. I love all of it, but my favorite has to be the incredible acoustic guitar part in the middle, where we took a lot of inspiration form Spanish Flamenco music, but also the great bass guitar solo right before that is something we have never done before. And Hendrik did an outstanding job in improvising this little piece on his fretless bass-guitar.
“Whatever” musically shows us various aspects as well together with your universal feature. In my opinion, this is the best song in the album cos it exactly shows us what Leviathan is as the current team. Guitar works are awesome as well. Plus, the lyrics is kinda just-my-type one as well cos it tells about everlasting fight for your freedom. What do you feel with the song?
Tobi: It is also my favorite on the album and also my favorite track to perform live. Musically it is such a very diverse piece, with the dark and fast beginning, then the atmospheric acoustic guitar in the middle just before the song turns into a very uplifting and melodic tune right at the end. To me it is one of our best works to date. And also lyrically it has a very positive message just as "Keep Going" has. Fight for your dreams and your freedom, that is really the essence of it all. A message that also does fit very well to the state that our band is currently in, because we also had a lot of bad luck which ultimately lead to the break up, but we returned to continue with what we love.
Can we believe Leviathan are fully back to the scene this time? Can we expect more albums in the future? We want more new songs from you in the future then!
Tobi: We are here to stay, I can promise you that! We all did learn a lot from the breakup of the band and from the bad decisions that we made prior to it, mostly considering label and other business choices. Now we really went back to the roots, handled everything ourselves from recording to production and the release. That really showed us the way for the future of the band and on top of that "Of Origins Unearthed" so far is our most successful release, without any support of a big label. And about new music, well Jonas already has the idea for the concept of the next four albums and we already have gathered the first ideas for a follow up to "Of Origins ...". So, it will not take another five years this time ;)
Awesome! That’s what I wanted to hear from you! Thank you so much for your time with this interview. Keep going, guys!
Jonas Reisenauer - Vocals & Guitar
Tobias Dahs - Guitar
Hendrik Franke - Bass
Tobias Parke - Drums
Jule Dahs - Clean Vocals, Backing Vocals